University Hospitals Extends Reach to Low-Income Neighborhoods

University Hospitals in Cleveland, OH, will launch an exciting medical-legal partnership (MLP) with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland this summer. It will open the doors to the Rainbow Center for Women and Children, serving two of Cleveland’s most underserved neighborhoods.

Crain’s Cleveland Business wrote about the partnership, which is funded by Cleveland law firm Benesch. Through this five-year partnership, lawyers will be available to help lower-income Cleveland families receive legal assistance for issues related to housing, immigration, education and family law. Low income families also benefit from neighborhood medical support that was previously unavailable in the Hough and Fairfax neighborhoods.

One goal of the MLP is to help families address and overcome the Social Determinants of Health – the societal factors that impact the health of a community.

According to a 2017 report by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, of the modifiable factors impacting overall health, 20% are attributed to clinical care (i.e., healthcare quality and access); 50% are related to social determinants such as housing, transportation, education and employment; and 30% to health-related behaviors.

Maternal and child health and well-being are linked closely to the Social Determinants of Health. The MLP partnership may be valuable to local initiatives, such as First Year Cleveland, a consortium of non- and for-profit organizations determined to lower the Infant Mortality Rates in Cuyahoga County. In 2018, First Year Cleveland engaged Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) to develop the initiative’s engagement and public policy plan.

Franklin County Child Care Providers to Meet Star-Rating Standards

As highlighted in a recent Columbus Dispatch article, Franklin County Department of Jobs and Family Services (FCDJFS) will spend more than $750,000 this year to train childcare providers in low-income communities through the Step Up to Quality (SUTQ) star rating system. This free training will allow providers to meet new state standards and maintain public funding.

By July 1, 2020, all publicly funded child care (PFCC) programs in Ohio must participate in the SUTQ rating system or they will lose their funding. Only one in four PFCC Franklin County providers currently meet those standards. If this mandate were put in place today, more than 22,000 children in the county  – and a total of 115,000 state wide – could lose their child care services.

Early childhood education has a direct impact on a child’s success in school and life, affecting their path into the workforce and out of poverty.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) is a long-time client of FCDJFS, most recently leading the development of a public awareness campaign to help child care providers connect to the training; and to educate parents on the importance of quality care. Based on ACS-led research, two commercials were developed and can be viewed here and here.


Research Shows Intergenerational Benefits of Preschool

Many of us are familiar with the Perry Preschool or Abecedarian research that show the long-term impact that high-quality preschool can have on a child’s growth, development, and future. A new line of research goes deeper – beyond the children themselves – and looks at the impact of children whose parents received preschool education.

This research, “Breaking the Cycle? Intergenerational Effects of an Anti-Poverty Program in Early Childhood” cited striking data on the second-generation effects of preschool. Although the researchers said it’s too soon to conclude whether the second generation is no longer living in poverty and earning a good income, it showed that their offspring live significantly better in their young adult years than children of parents who did not attend preschool.


Among children whose mothers lived in a Head Start Community:

  • 90% graduated from high school
  • 69% attended some college
  • 13% became teen parents
  • 14% had been arrested or convicted

Conversely, among children whose mothers did NOT have access to Head Start:

  • 77% graduated from high school
  • 52% attended some college
  • 22% became teen parents
  • 30% had been arrested or convicted

Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) is a subject matter expert in early childhood education and has helped numerous foundations, local and state governments, and nonprofits with communication, strategy development, advocacy, and capacity building in this area. ACS staff has seen first-hand the difference of a high quality early education by working with clients such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and those across the country in Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin.

Understanding Infant Mortality

The New York Times recently wrote about a crisis that has plagued the United States for more than two centuries: Infant Mortality – specifically among African American mothers, who are more than twice as likely to lose a child during pregnancy or the first year of life than non-black women. Black infants die at a rate of 11.3 per 1,000 babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies – creating a racial divide wider than the one that existed during slavery.

It’s difficult to understand these numbers – especially when presented with the fact that they span all ages and incomes. Serena Williams and J.R. Smith are just two people who have discussed their struggles with high-risk and premature births.

As the article states, “…the reasons for the black-white divide in both infant and maternal mortality have been debated by researchers and doctors for more than two decades.”

Extensive research by some of the country’s top medical institutions point to two crucial factors: systemic, societal racism and a longstanding racial bias in health care.

Dozens of major cities across America have committed to addressing these issues and improving the health of their mothers and children. Reducing Infant Mortality has become a top priority from the largest medical systems to the smallest community organizations.

Cleveland is one of those cities. A recent article in Cleveland Scene pointed out that in 2015, the Ohio Department of Health released a report that showed black babies were dying at three times the rate of white babies. The article showcases a non-profit organization called Birthing Beautiful Communities, which is working to provide education and care to women of color during and after their pregnancies.

  • In 2017, there were 119 child deaths in Cuyahoga County, down from 155 in 2015 and 128 in 2016.
  • 38% of total births are from black moms, and black babies make up 78% of all infant deaths.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) was recently engaged by First Year Cleveland, a consortium of non- and for-profit organizations determined to lower the Infant Mortality Rates in Cuyahoga County. Through extensive research and in-depth planning, ACS has developed a three-year Engagement and Public Policy plan which delivers a comprehensive approach to reducing Infant Mortality among Cleveland families. ACS is proud to be a part of this valuable effort. Birthing Beautiful Communities is a grantee of First Year Cleveland.

New study shows healthcare in families is inter-related: kids receive recommended care when parents are insured

A recent article in Managed Healthcare Executive Magazine highlights a new study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine that finds parental Medicaid enrollment is linked to an increase in pediatric well-child visits for children in low-income families. The study, published in Pediatrics, found that a parent being enrolled in Medicaid was associated with a 29 percentage point higher probability that low-income children received an annual well-child visit, compared to a child whose parent was not enrolled in Medicaid.

The authors consider several reasons why this may occur, including:

  • when parents receive Medicaid, their children may also be more likely to enroll in the program;
  • parental insurance coverage could result in improvement in family financial status, which can enable children’s healthcare use; and
  • when parents are able to enroll in insurance and engage with the health system for themselves, they may be more likely to engage in care-seeking for their children.

Regardless of the reasons, researchers suggest that efforts to expand Medicaid or other insurance eligibility for low-income parents could help promote the child’s receipt of critical, recommended preventative health care services.

“Healthcare use in families is inter-related, and policies and programs that consider the family as a whole may be more beneficial than those that target either children or their parents independently,” says lead study author Maya Venkataramani, MD.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) has assisted recently helped several clients develop and/or implement strategy to increase awareness about important early childhood services. This includes mapping the landscape of health care advocacy efforts in New York for the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York, increasing awareness of pre-natal health care for mothers in Franklin County, Ohio, or developing language to support a Two-Generational approach in Detroit, Michigan.

Sweeping Changes to the Criminal Justice System on the Horizon

Criminal Justice Reform is getting an increasing level of attention nationally and in state capitals from coast to coast – from legislative fixes to ballot initiatives, addressing our criminal justice system is a hot topic and high priority across the political spectrum.

In Ohio, in part due to the Opioid crisis sweeping across the state, there are multiple efforts to address the issue. What we know about Ohio’s prison status:

  • Ohio has the 5th highest prison population, behind states with significantly larger populations (Texas, Florida, California,) and Georgia.
  • It cost $1.8 billion a year to operate Ohio’s prison systems.
  • Ohio prisons are designed to hold 38,600 people (currently at 130% capacity).
  • Average cost per inmate: $26,364 a year.
  • 1 in 4 of all people newly admitted to prison in Ohio are there for a drug offense.

*Statistics from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (

Advocates in Ohio are proposing a ballot initiative called the Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Amendment to divert low-level drug offenders away from prison and reinvesting the money saved in community rehabilitation programs and victims services.

Ohio is not alone. On the heels of reforms from states like Florida and California, several other states are proposing sweeping changes. Massachusetts’ criminal justice bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature. Six separate criminal justice bills are moving through Oklahoma’s legislature this session.

In addition to state-level efforts, Congress is working on a new bi-partisan criminal justice reform bill, which just passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. Media from Fox News to the New York Times are covering and supporting criminal justice reform efforts across the country.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC will continue to follow criminal justice reform efforts across the country.

Small towns and rural areas lag in economic and employment growth

A recent Brookings report highlights the divide between large metropolitan areas and small cities and rural areas. Smaller metropolitan areas with less than 250,000 people—representing 9 percent of the nation’s population—have lost ground in terms of economic and population growth. Rural areas had even greater declines in output and employment since 2010. There is some variability among states. For example, in New York, 95 percent of the state’s 2010 to 2016 employment growth emanated from large metro counties, in Ohio it was 62%, and in South Carolina it was just 9%. See here for 50-state data on the shares of states’ growth generated by large, medium, and small metropolitan areas as well as rural areas.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) has assisted the J. Marion Sims Foundation since 2016 in a variety of ways, including helping to design an ongoing community engagement effort and being a thought partner as the Foundation shifts their strategic direction. As a champion for the Lancaster, South Carolina region, the Foundation works collaboratively with other organizations to strategically address declines in economic growth and employment in their region. The Foundation is specifically focused on building a healthy community where all people have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

What Journalists and Community Leaders Should Look for During Child Care Site Visits & Tours

Are you looking for a way to allow journalists to better understand and experience the importance of quality child care during a site visit? The Education Writers Association outlines a wonderful story that not only provides examples, but a quick check list to ensure that local reporters get the most out of a visit to your early learning program. The tips in this article offer easy to understand and accessible options to ensure journalists but also any visitor can not only understand what quality is but also experience it. Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) has planned and conducted dozens of site visits around the country for journalists, policymakers, and community leaders. ACS early learning client PRE4CLE is in the midst of site visits with Ohio gubernatorial candidates helping them to experience the critical nature of quality experiences for young children and hopefully shape early learning policies of future office holders.

See more here:

A perfect storm brewing for foundations and non-profit organizations

A recent analysis by Grants Plus “What does tax reform mean for grant funding?” outlines the implications of the new tax law on philanthropic giving. Grants Plus warns of a “perfect storm” that will impact philanthropic giving if individual donations fall at the same time that federal grants and contracts, and state and local budgets, are reduced or even cut.

The Grants Plus highlights the shift in overall giving patterns based on a projected increase of 30 million tax payers who will now take the standardized deduction on their individual taxes (from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy), as well as a drop in charitable donations of between $16 billion and $24 billion per year (from the Council on Foundations).

Non-profits feeling the pinch – The new tax law will not affect all non-profit organizations in the same ways. Although budget uncertainty is likely for all organizations, there may be significant differences in giving patterns based on donor preferences. Large nonprofits, like universities, museums, and hospitals, are favored by the wealthiest donors, while ordinary Americans donate more to local charities, social service agencies, and religious organizations. Grants Plus suggests that the organizations most likely to be hurt by a disproportionate decline in giving by middle-income donors are those that meet local needs and serve vulnerable communities.

Foundations must make difficult choices – In the short-term, it seems individual donor giving patterns will not affect foundations. With fewer state and federal dollars to work with, however, some non-profits will rely more heavily on philanthropic giving. This means increased competition for fewer dollars, especially for those organizations that provide crisis or safety net services. This means foundations will have to make some tough choices.

What can organizations do?

  • Talk with individual donors
  • Shore up your funder stewardship and deepen the relationships and trust
  • Be alert to changing priorities
  • Seek out new sources of support – See Grants Plus tips for finding funders most likely to fund your nonprofit or contact Grants Plus about our comprehensive Funding Scan.
  • Engage your staff and board

Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) has previously partnered with Grants Plus to assist organizations in meeting their objectives. In addition, ACS continues to help foundations and non-profit organizations who rely on philanthropic giving to strategically communicate about their work to target audiences and position themselves to achieve their goals.

ACS client creates a research-based communication strategy and commercials to increase awareness of high-quality early learning

In May of 2017, The Franklin County Department of Job & Family Services (FCDJFS) in Columbus, Ohio contracted with Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) to lead and develop their Early Learning Media Campaign between May and September 2017. The purpose of this campaign was to help advance communication among two target audiences– parents and home and center based child care providers in Franklin County about the importance of high quality early learning—specifically the importance for child care providers to become quality rated via Ohio’s Step Up to Quality system and for parents to seek out star rated providers when looking for child care options. Based on local qualitative and quantitative research and planning with FCDJFS leadership two commercials were produced which featured local parents and child care providers to help leverage existing FCDJFS outreach. ACS has continued work with FCJDFS for 2018 to build on the work in 2017 and will have more to share in the coming months about the evolution of this critical work. See the commercial focused on parents here and for child care providers here